Masks compulsory in shops but retailers won't ask staff to enforce new rules

Shops will urge people to put on their masks to protect themselves and others – but are unlikely to enforce the rules for those that don't.

Telford Centre
Telford Centre

Face coverings are now compulsory for shoppers and those travelling on public transport.

But while most people are now donning masks once again, a sizeable minority are refusing to abide by the new rules, which are designed to tackle the arrival of the new Covid variant Omicron.

People in England could face fines of £200 for refusing to wear a mask when required, which could rise to £400 for a second infraction and £800 for a third. It is already mandatory in Wales.

Iceland, which was founded in Oswestry, is among those speaking out. Its managing director Richard Walker said his staff would instead be focusing on the “long-term recovery of the high street.”

Mr Walker said staff on the shop floor should not be asked to intervene when they spot someone without a mask, adding: “We fully support the reintroduction of compulsory face masks in shops, however, we won’t be asking our store colleagues to police it.

“Our store teams, alongside all retail workers, have shown heroic efforts in terms of ensuring safety for customers and building back consumer confidence and it’s crucial that we stay focused on the long-term recovery of the high street.

“We need to continue to encourage people to shop in stores if they feel comfortable, and I’m hopeful that the latest guidelines won’t discourage customers from doing so.”

Shopping centre bosses in the region say they don't believe footfall will be impacted by the new rules. They say trading has been strong so far in the run-up to Christmas and are confident most shoppers will once again willingly follow the new rules.

Glynn Morrow, manager of Telford Centre, said: "Our customers have been very supportive whenever new guidance has been issued and we believe that this will be the case again with signage in place to prompt visitors.

"It is important to remember not everyone can wear a mask and for those who are exempt the sunflower lanyard scheme will again be running across the centre.

"Footfall has been strong and with Christmas shopping in full swing, as long as shoppers follow the guidance, we don’t anticipate lower footfall numbers."

Seb Slater, executive director of Shrewsbury Business Improvement District, said it has been in contact with businesses to advise them of the new rules and have restocked information posters for them to display on their premises.

"Along with our partners on the Shrewsbury Recovery Taskforce, we are continuing to monitor the situation," he said.

“Businesses will continue to provide a very warm welcome to everyone coming to Shrewsbury for their Christmas shopping with additional outdoor space available on the weekend from 10am-4pm when the High Street is free from general traffic. All car parks remain accessible with free car parking available on Sundays in Frankwell and Abbey Foregate."

Meanwhile, traders at The Parade Shops in Shrewsbury have welcomed the new face masks rules if it means they are allowed to stay open.

Mike Davis, of Salop Technology, said "Masks played a large part in stopping the spread of the previous variant so if wearing them means we get to remain open and continue trading as well as helping stop the spread into Christmas it’s a small price to pay to keep everyone fit and healthy."

Minola Moss, of Minola Moss Lash Boutique, said: "I would just like to say that especially for my eyelash treatments being so close contact I think introducing masks again is very positive, not only does this keep my clients safer but also increases the chance of my business staying open over the busiest time of year. My top priority is keeping both my clients and family safe and ensuring this Christmas is better than last year."

Michelle D'Arcy Jewell, of The Vegan Hub, said: "We have continued to wear masks in our shop to keep our customers safe and as a response most of our customers have done the same. We have really appreciated that as small businesses would be forced to close if the staff catch Covid. The new rules are very welcome as it increases the chances of us being able to remain open in the lead up to Christmas."

The Poundland chain, which has its national base in the West Midlands, said: "At every stage over the course of the pandemic, we’ve followed government advice to the letter.

"That’s why from today in England our colleagues, will be wearing masks unless they’re exempt and we will be asking our customers in England to do the same."

Shoppers at the giant Merry Hill shopping centre are being asked to wear face coverings when inside the malls.

Centre manager Jonathan Poole said that in line with the latest government guidance, all visitors and those working at Merry Hill will be required to wear a mask in shops, within malls and when visiting the centre's indoor festive attractions, unless exempt.

“To help everyone stay safe and enjoy the festive period we continue to operate with enhanced cleaning measures and hand sanitiser in place throughout the centre. We are also encouraging visitors to check the website for the latest updates to help plan their visit and we encourage people to shop during quieter times such as weekday mornings and evenings.

“We’re looking forward to welcoming our visitors over this festive period and we’re working hard to keep Merry Hill safe for everyone.”

Stourbridge's Ryemarket Shopping Centre said that as face masks were now mandatory in stores and shopping centres it was asking visitors to wear a mask in stores to protect themselves and others.

At Bullring and Grand Central in Birmingham management issued a message to shoppers strongly urging them to wear face coverings throughout the shopping centres.

Meanwhile, the Police and Crime Commissioner for West Mercia, is also encouraging people to play their part as the compulsory wearing of face masks was introduced in shops and on public transport.

Commissioner John Campion said: “It is easy to play our part, to keep ourselves, our loved ones and our communities safe. We have all made personal sacrifices over a sustained period of time, but unfortunately Covid still poses a real risk.

“This comes at a crucial time with Christmas just around the corner and we must take personal responsibility. Wearing a mask is a simple precaution which can allow us to enjoy our freedom, and celebrate with family and friends.”

Paddy Lillis, general secretary of shopworkers union Usdaw, said: “There is no reason why, when lifting other Covid restrictions in England, the Government could not have kept the requirement to wear a face covering in busy public places, like shops and public transport."

He said shop staff were “deeply worried” about catching Covid and that the emergence of the Omicron variant had added further concern.

“Many shopworkers are at a greater risk of catching the virus and taking it home to their families.

“Yet they have worked throughout the pandemic to keep the country supplied with essentials. These key workers must be valued, respected and protected," he added.

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